Elephant exchange: The Sri Lankan government has changed its mind about sending a baby elephant to South Korea as a gift, after realising it was born on what it considers to be an important day. The elephant was originally going to be sent as part of an exchange of wild animals.
14 March 2014
A minister said President Mahinda Rajapaksa withdrew the young elephant from this gift exchange after learning she was born on 18 May 2009. That is the day the Sri Lankan government ended the civil war by defeating the Tamil Tigers.
The government marks the day every year with a display of military pomp and many Sri Lankans see it as an auspicious date – although many of the Tamil minority see it as a day of mourning as so many of their number were killed.
The minister said the elephant calf, born at an elephant orphanage, was a symbol of the war victory. She would have been sent to South Korea with one other elephant in exchange for a lion and a tiger.
An environmentalist, Pubudu Weeraratne, said he didn’t care about her birthdate, but it was wrong to send such young elephants overseas as they still needed their mother’s protection and milk. He also said the intended Korean destination was a private safari park and there was no guarantee the animals would be protected from the harsh winters there.
Captive elephants are used in religious ceremonies here or kept as prized pets by some people. There have been recent reports of an underground racket in newly captured elephants even though trapping elephants is now strictly illegal.
Rubbish in Rio: Rio de Janeiro authorities and street cleaners say they have reached a new agreement to end an eight-day strike which has left tonnes of rubbish on the streets of the Brazilian city. The strike by street sweepers had led to piles of rubbish and a bad smell on the street during carnival week.
10 March 2014
There’s something rotten in Rio – and the smell is coming from the huge stacks of rubbish piled up on sidewalks all over the city. Rio’s street sweepers chose the carnival holiday to demand better salaries. Their wages start at roughly $400 a month.
There could hardly be a better time for them to prove their importance. The streets were left a mess after hundreds of carnival parades and now, rubbish piles up in both poor and uptown neighbourhoods – and in tourist areas like Ipanema or Copacabana beach.
The president of Rio’s rubbish collecting company has even appealed to the population to store rubbish at home whenever possible. He says 30% of the city’s sweepers have gone on strike. Some of those who have been working have been threatened by the strike movement so now police has been deployed alongside rubbish collectors to keep them safe as they go about their business.
The strike has divided opinions in Rio. On social media, many support the sweepers’ demands for better salaries. Others say they are opportunists and the situation is a big embarrassment to the city.
But Brazil’s culture of littering the streets doesn’t help. A video that went viral online shows that even authorities have a problem with that. Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, is seen throwing what seemed to be the rest of an apple on the sidewalk – and now promised to impose himself a fine for his wrongdoing. His government recently created a programme to keep Rio’s residents from littering the streets.
Pompeii under threat: The government of Italy has called for an emergency meeting to discuss how to save the ancient Roman city of Pompeii from further ruin. It comes after new damage this weekend at the site.
3 March 2014
The newly appointed Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, is already facing a huge challenge: how to save one of the world’s most treasured archaeological sites.
He’s summoned officials from Pompeii to Rome to report on the state of the site, and explain why the wall of a tomb and part of an arch of the Temple of Venus fell down after days of heavy rain this weekend.
This is not the first time that the site has suffered damage. There was an international outcry in 2010 after a series of wall collapses in Pompeii. The ancient city was completely buried in ash in 79 AD after a volcanic eruption, and rediscovered in the 18th Century.
Critics say that, having survived for two millennia, one of Italy’s most popular attractions is now being neglected.
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